Writing in the Dubai daily, Khaleej Times, Stuart Littlewood, author of the book Radio Free Palestine, praises Hamas while heavily criticizing Israel and implicitly comparing it to the Nazis:

I often wonder if the British could have clung on through the London blitz, … if they’d had nothing to fight with and … Nazi tanks in the streets, … checkpoints, Nazi rifle butts smashing down their front doors, and … Nazi storm-troopers in their jackboots ransacking their homes and dragging off family members.  Palestinians have been put through that sort of mangle for decades…Hamas must do (within chosen limits, of course) whatever it takes to abolish its sinister image and make the rest of the world feel comfortable.  It must erase its ‘terrorist’ reputation, whether justified or not. It must re-brand, open the door and make itself more approachable.

Littlewood’s article is a good example of what the Reut Institute terms the ‘clash of brands’ – Israel being branded an aggressor while its enemies are branded as peaceful social movements.

The ability to delegitimize Israel is rooted in successful efforts to brand it as an occupying and aggressive entity, which is carried out by comparing Israel to Apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany. These comparisons justify similar conduct in terms of exclusion, boycott, and condemnation, and also promote a solution in accordance with the ‘one man, one vote’ principle. Moreover, branding Israel in this way, facilitates the believability of rumors as false as organ harvesting in Haiti and justifies aggressive action against Israel or Israelis. At the same time, Hamas and the Resistance Network have been able to brand themselves as peaceful social movements that stand up against oppression. The Delegitimization Network meanwhile, has succeeded in associating itself with protection of human rights, respect for international law, and an aspiration for peace and justice.

The Gaza Flotilla provides an effective example of how potent this branding has become. The clash at sea between the IDF and the Mavi Marmura was also a clash of three brands. Israel’s which had been effectively associated with belligerence and a disregard for international law; Hamas’, which has been identified with social activism and resistance to the occupation; and the Delegitimization Network’s, which has been associated with the concern for a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In this context, Israel had no chance of ‘winning’ regardless of the facts of what actually happened.

Therefore, re-branding Israel and changing the values associated with it is critically important to fighting delegitimization.

3 thoughts on “The Power of Brands

  1. The problem has nothing to do with branding. Products have “brands”; nations have historical images that cannot be assumed, or changed like labels. Israel has inherited the historical image of the international Jew, the butt of a millenial anti-Semitism. Jews are never victims until after the fact of a retribution that they have “earned or deserve.” Kishnev follows Calvary; Auschwitz the Elders of Zion. Before the retribution, the Jew (Israel) is always the aggressor or exploiter.
    Israel is being naive about the very historical force that enabled it to come to life: Zionism. Zionism is the answer to anti-Semitism not because it discourages it (that’s idealistic ) but because it defies and combats it.
    Israel must expose the hypoocrisy and lies of its enemies, not change its own make-up and behavior to please an imaginary
    observor or consumer. Branding is banal. Israel must wage a more successful propaganda. That means less self-praise( Start-ups and the number of Nobel pizes, etc,etc) and more exposes of the lies of their enemies. More “J’ accuse” and less Madison Avenue.

  2. The comparison to “branding” is interesting and highlights the complexity of the issue.
    On the other hand, negative branding also derives from failing to “sell” good and reliable products and/or services.
    Israel shas nothing to “sell” in that respect.
    Israel should invest more in its Hasbara and engage competent people – and Israel HAS competent people.
    Israel should expose the de-ligitimozers, name them, expose their backgrounds and their political and financial strings to certain organizations.
    Israel and any Hasbara organization should change the narrative:
    if the other side insists in talking about “settlements” the Hasbara should state the figures of ISraeli terror victims during and after each peace agreement and/or agreement. (What happened after Oslo, what happened after Geneva etc.).
    I think that with some plain statistics we could expose certain lies.
    Israel and many organizations like Reut, who produce extremely important material, expose facts and figures should ALSO REALIZE that not the whole world understands English well enough to study their material.
    The enemy side is active concurrently here in EU in several local languages. This should be also onsidered once for all!

    Israel has neglected the campuses, high schools and international PR arena for many years.
    An effective Hasbara won’t be established in one day…

    Last but not least: Israel, in opposition to its enemies is a democracy. Negative actions, differences of opinion and political arguments will always be published, whereas the other side is suppressing this political freedom. It’s important to mention it in every discussion we lead.

    Good luck Reut!

  3. As long as we are the occupying army and the Palestinians are the underdogs we will always be viewed as aggressive and belligerent. With some truth. This isn’t about branding, it’s about our own failure to stop occupying the West Bank.

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